The Acquisition of Gikiiyu Syntactic Structures by- Gikuyu Children aged Between 3 and 5 Years.

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Ndung'u, Ruth Wangeci
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Kenyatta University
This study was carried out on the acquisition of Gikuyu syntax by Gikuyu children. These children were at a critical stage of speech development, that is, between three and five years. The study was prompted by the general observation of 'fluent 'children of a tender age. The aim was to test this 'fluency' by conducting a field research. This study is an attempt to describe the syntax of Gikuyu children between the age of 3 and 5 years. It gives a descriptive analysis of their sentences. The study looks into the rules and the level of complexity of the childen's syntax. The study was prompted by general observations of 'fluent' children aged 5 years or below. The question was, how 'fluent' are they? This could only be answered by looking at their syntax and analyzing it. The study was influenced by readings on child /language learning, for example, that of Carol Chomsky (1969. Chomsky, (ibid), says that people assume that children have mastered the syntax of their first language by the age of 5. In this work we wanted to find out whether it is just an assumption or a fact that children master syntax by age 5. A field research was conducted on six Gikuyu children between the age of 3 and 5 years. The children's utterances were tested using interviews and the participant- observation method. These were recorded on tape and in writing. After analysing the data, it was evident that the children's syntax was complex. They used complex rules which can be found in the syntax of adult Gikuyu speakers. The analysis showed that the children had mastered the syntax of Gikuyu. They had learned and internalised the syntactic rules of Gikuyu. They used these rules in both experimental and spontaneous situations. Therefore, the children did not just seem 'fluent', they were fluent.
A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfilment for the Degree of Master of Arts in English in Kenyatta University.